I’m not adept yet at grocery pick-up, but I’m on the curve. Today I did the Kroger pick-up and then ran through a drive-through to get a sandwich. Needing badly to be outside, to see people and to feel that there’s a whole world out there–a world that’s not wholly sick, but still thriving in key ways, I parked under a tree to eat that sandwich. When I finished, I walked around to the back of the SUV and opened the hatch to get a banana for dessert–a banana for which I’d really been wishing for about three days. (In fact, I’d wished for bananas so badly that the girl who was putting my groceries in my trunk said “Wow! Your family must really love bananas!” She was right. I had lots.
As I grabbed that banana (which was mostly green, but I really wanted a banana) I knocked a half gallon of milk out of the back of the forerunner. I really wanted milk, too, but there it ran, down the little incline and over about three more parking spaces. But since I really wanted that milk and I knew how difficult it would be to replace without actually entering a store, I put what was left of that slit carton in three plastic Kroger bags and put it in the passenger seat beside me. I got the diaper wipes out of the console and cleaned up the mat in the back as best I could (because, do you even know how rank spoiled milk smells?) and came home as, at last, I ate that green banana.
In my driveway, I realized that those three bags had not really fully contained that milk from the bursted jug. The passenger seat was a pretty big mess. And now my driveway was and my sidewalk, too. So I went inside and got the top to a Tupperware cake-taker and went outside and poured the remaining milk from that jug into the Tupperware. I took my big trash can from the kitchen outside to put those heavy wet Kroger bags into the trash. Then I went inside with my bowl of milk, got a jar and a funnel and poured the milk from the Tupperware into my jar. I got just a little over a quart, for all my trouble. It would have been easier to go down to my neighbor’s farm and ask if I could just milk a cow, for that quart. But, like I said, I really wanted some milk.
That’s pretty much how my week’s been going–about a quart of satisfaction per every gallon-worth of trouble…and a big mess in three different places at the same time. I know some of you can relate.We’re innovative and independent, but we’re also incorrigible in our routineness. We’re inertia-driven, struggling to stop those routines and find our grooves in what seems a surreal stay-in-place pandemonium. We fight anxiety–about the sickness itself, about political extremism, about people from whom we are disconnected, and about the economy. We worry about how we will ever make up all those cancelled appointments and engagements and events once we do start having schedules again. I’ve wondered many times lately how people do quarantines without prayer and the Word. Knowing there’s no place to go now would be extremely hard if there was no ultimate place to go…for eternity.
But there was also this other moment; a moment that also happened while I was driving to that curbside this week….
My friend, a relatively new convert, called to ask me if I was okay and to encourage me to pray. She said, “We all have to pray. God will give us what we need if we just pray and pray.”
I knew she was right (Matthew 6:33), but I wasn’t sure exactly where she was coming from as we started talking. She related to me that some of her unbelieving friends were in a bad situation in a local hospital. She said to them “You need to let me pray for you. God can help you.” And so she did. Her prayers were answered in God’s great timing and this family is now open to Bible study.
She went on to tell me how very hard she has also been praying for her unbelieving husband. “I believe he is coming around to the point of believing in God,” she said. We talked further and agreed on a book that I’m ordering for her study with him. Then we talked about my friend’s job changes lately.
My friend has, for many months, been working in a restaurant. I encouraged her to tell the management that she could not work on Sundays during worship. She did tell them that, but, in spite of their agreement, they kept scheduling her so that she had to miss worship. At last, a few months back, she told them she would have to leave their employment if she could not faithfully worship. So they let her go; essentially, they fired her. She was seeking first the kingdom and, as she did, the Lord, in Matthew 6:33 fashion, provided another job, working with elderly people in a nursing home. My friend loves this work. Its pay and benefits are what she was looking for all along.
Her next statement was rich. ” Here I am, as an essential worker now; working, getting paid to do something I love, and eating right through this pandemic, while the people who fired me, as restaurant managers , are out of work.” Can you think of a more practical illustration of Matthew 6:33? I’d be hard-pressed to come up with one.
See, in a few of the little things, we may look at a quart’s worth for all of our trouble and get discouraged. But, in the big eternal things, let’s be sure to notice that, for our quart’s worth of seeking, our needs are repaid in gallons. Your prayer may not always be answered in exactly the same way or with the same immediacy that my friend’s is being answered. But mark it down: When we seek the kingdom first, the result, even when we wait till heaven to get it, will be fourfold (and more) blessings.
I know another family who was in the midst of trying to buy a home in a new city to which they were moving just last month. Their house sold, in the thriving February American economy, before they even placed it on the market. Finding one in their destination city was proving harder, though. It was a seller’s market there, as well. Many homes were simply snatched up before this good family had a chance to travel to see them. In one case, this family even placed an offer on a home sight-unseen, becoming pretty desperate to find a place to live. Every house they tried to buy, though, was not negotiable to their price range or was sold before they could even take a look. This little family kept praying and serving the Lord and, then, the pandemic hit. That’s when the market flipped. Suddenly, people were no longer buying houses and, just like that, this little family’s dollars would go much further in buying a house. They were able to quickly find a house and negotiate the price in a way that would have been impossible only a few days prior. No one in this scenario was happy, of course, that a pandemic had reached America (or even existed, of course.) But, at the same time, this couple could look back and recognize that, in their former disappointments, God was providing something better, as they continued in His will.
It’s often just like that. Providence can be seen so much clearer in hindsight. And, even in situations that were destructive and for which we would have never wished or prayed, for His people looking back, there was Providence…good things coming from difficult things. Blessings in trials.
Am I saying that God’s always going to fix all the problems for us, as His faithful children? Yes. I’m saying He will. I’m just not saying when. For some of the trials, heaven may be the fix. We may struggle with some hardships for all of this lifetime, as His grace is sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). But Paul’s thorn in the flesh, whatever it was, is “fixed” now. Let’s live in the shadow of Matthew 6:33 and patiently wait for the fourfold blessings, whether they may come in the blessed here and now or in the sweet by and by.
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.